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Kunihiro

Description:
(R) Iwai Shijaku I as the meshitsukai (maidservant, 召使) Ohatsu; (L) Nakamura Utaemon III as Iwafuji and Nakamura Kashichi II as Futorigi in Tsugi awase koshiji no meiboku, Kado Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Kunihiro ga
Seals:
Block carver: Kumazô (Kuma tô, クマ刀); Co-publisher(?) or Print seller(?): Touse (とウセ)
Publisher:
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei)
Date:
4/1832
Format:
(H x W)
Oban diptych nishiki-e
36.8 x 53.5 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color, very good condition; unbacked; small repaired wormholes near Shijaku's right foot and in corresponding area of L sheet, filled binding holes on R sheet
Price (USD/¥):
$590 / ¥ ... contact us

Order/Inquiry (Ref #KUH41)

Comments:
Background

The play Tsugi awase koshiji no meiboku (Encounter by the plums along the post-road: 接合北国梅), which premiered in 1801/01 at the Naka Theater, Osaka, was based on an actual incident, was one in a series of puppet and kabuki plays called Kagamiyama mono ("Kaga Mountain plays") dramatizing rivalries within the Kaga clan. In 1724 the maidservant Osatsu avenged the death of her mistress Omichi, who had been driven to suicide after being struck by a sandal — considered a terrible insult — by a woman named Sawano.

In the theatrical adaptations, the names were changed. After the lady-in-waiting Onoe uncovers a plot to seize power from the shôgun by an court woman named Iwafuji, the latter insults Onoe by striking her with a sandal. Onoe commits suicide, but only after revealing the conspiracy to her maid, Ohatsu. Vengeance is gained when Ohatsu foils the seditious intrigue and kills Iwafuji with a sword, as well as symbolically beating the corpse with Onoe'’'s blood-stained sandal.

Design

In Kunihiro's print Ohatsu is shown during sword competition (fencing with wooden swords was called kendô), in which Ohatsu was forced to prove her skill in martial arts by defeating various opponents, including Iwafuji (who cheats and claims victory). Ohatsu has subdued one opponent and parries another while Iwafuji stands ready to fight Ohatsu.

The interior scene includes a receding perspective view executed in a technique called uki-e (floating picture: 浮絵 or 浮繪), first seen in ukiyo-e printmaking at least by the 1740s. Early on, the Japanese understanding of one-point vanishing perspective was imperfect; characteristically, the horizon line was set low and the receding space deep and sharply converged.

The preservation of the red and pink colors is particularly fine in this impression. The left sheet includes the seal of one of Osaka's finest block carvers, Kumazô (it reads Kuma tô, or "cut by Kuma": クマ刀). Each sheet also has a brown seal reading Touse (とウセ), possibly that of a print seller, which also appears on works by other artists, including Hokuei, and alongside publishers such as Hyôzen, Wataki, and , as on the present diptych, Tenki.

References: IBKYS-I, no. 63; WAS I-4, no. 466; KNP, vol. 6, p. 252; IKB-I, no, 1-481; NKE, 250